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Abdullah’s answer in Parliament yesterday that the government is committed to implementing all 125 recommendations of Police Royal Commission most welcome and timely as there are Cabinet Ministers and top government officials who have not yet fully got this message
Media Conference Statement
(Parliament, Tuesday):The parliamentary answer by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday that he was committed to implementing all 125 recommendations of the Police Royal Commission is most welcome and timely as there are Cabinet Ministers and top government officials who have not yet fully got this message.
One outstanding example is the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz. Last Thursday (30.6.05), when answering my question as to whether the government would support the establishment of a Select Committee on Intelligence to bring intelligence-gathering under parliamentary accountability instead of being a law unto itself, Nazri said it was not necessary to place the management of intelligence information under the accountability of parliament.
"The management of intelligence information should only be handled by trained agencies because any leakage of intelligence information can undermine the implementation of security activities or monitoring in the handling of a national security issue.
”The responsibility for intelligence on public order was under the jurisdiction of the police and that for intelligence related to threats to national sovereignty or from outside the country rested with the military.
”All intelligence information are channelled to the National Intelligence Committee, National Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minister for policy decisions.
“The existing mechanism is adequate to handle any threat to security from within or outside the country.
"Parliament should play its role as the legislative and national security should be left to the administrative."
Nazri had not only misunderstood the doctrine of the separation of powers among the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary and the important role of Parliament to exercise stewardship and to call the Executive to accountability including in the handling of intelligence portfolio as is the practice in other “First World” Parliaments, he had wittingly or unwittingly rejected Recommendation No. 66 of the Police Royal Commission, viz Enhance Special Branch accountability.
In my supplementary question, I specifically drew Nazri’s attention to the Police Royal Commission Report calling for greater government accountability to Parliament on intelligence matters, in particular “various complaints and expressions of concern regarding SB”, “allegations of torture and humiliating and degrading treatment inflicted by SB upon ISA detainees” and “concerns that SB may be manipulated by a party in power for political purposes”, and the passage in the Report:
“Safeguards should be written into the law for this purpose. At the moment there appears to be no legal provision dealing with the functions, powers and duties of the SB. The Police Act does not spell out what ‘security intelligence’ means and what are the powers vested in the SB. The SB appears to be governed by a Charter issued by the Prime Minister after independence. …To be valid the Charter must be made under authority of law. In the absence of such a law the Charter is only an administrative document that cannot affect the rights of individuals.” (p.316)
However, Nazri clearly did not get the Prime Minister’s message about his commitment to implement all the 125 recommendations of the Police Royal Commission, including Recommendation 66 to “Enhance Special Branch accountability”, as the Minister came out with a reply which tantamount to a rejection of this recommendation.
Nazri is not the only government front-bencher who has not got Abdullah’s message of commitment to implement all the 125 Police Royal Commission recommendations. Another example is the Deputy Internal Security Minister, Datuk Nor Omar, who gave wobbly answers to parliamentary questions about Police Royal Commission Recommendation No. 12 to establish an independent oversight mechanism, the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) and Recommendation 59 to amend section 73 of the Internal Security Act.
In his written parliamentary reply to Datuk Ghazali Ibrahim (BN-Padang Terap) yesterday, Abdullah said the government was committed to implementing all 125 recommendations by the Royal Police Commission but would do it based on priorities and suitability, besides having the financial means to do so – and that It would be done in stages and would take six months to five years.
It must be a matter of grave concern that government front-benchers as well as top government officials responsible for briefing and preparing Ministers and Deputy Ministers to reply to questions and debates in Parliament, have not got the message of the Prime Minister’s commitment to fully implement that 125 recommendations of the Police Royal Commission. It further illustrates the importance of having a full parliamentary debate on the Police Royal Commission Report before the end of the current parliamentary meeting for all government front benchers, MPs, the police force and the civil society to internalize this commitment of the Prime Minister.
If the current Parliamentary meeting ends without a full debate on the Police Royal Commission Report, it would be a grave abdication of responsibility by both the Executive and Parliament in failing to give the Police Royal Commission Report the proper attention and importance it fully deserved if the country is serious in wanting to transform the police force into a world-class police service dedicated to the triple objectives to keep the crime rate low, uphold human rights and eradicate corruption.
The Cabinet meeting tomorrow should ensure a three-day debate on the Police Royal Commission Report in Parliament before it adjourns until the budget meeting in September.